Look familiar?

Savoy Steps is the astonishing site where Dylan filmed the video for Subterranean Homesick Blues. I’d always assumed it was New York, but when I read that it was London, off Strand, I went hunting-gathering. Amazingly it was only yards from where Blake lived his final six years, and died in 1827. Somehow the two greatest bardic figures of the 20th century – Dylan and Ginsberg – had found this space to innovate, in 1965. It was pure chance. Dylan was staying at the Savoy Hotel. They’d tried filming on Embankment but the police began hassling them.

It’s a terrific end to my William Blake walk. Blake dies, we go down a few steps, turn a corner, and we’re on this mindblowing backstreet, taking the Blake energy into brilliant futures, finding out new incarnations…

It’s also holy ground. The famous film censors out a real church which is immediately to Dylan’s left, Savoy Chapel, dedicated to John the Baptist. It’s been around long enough to have been trashed by Wat Tyler and co. during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381
when they burned down the Savoy Palace, John of Gaunt’s London pad.

In 2011, I organised a 70th birthday celebration for Bob Dylan on this site attended by many great poets and musicians, two of whom – Jeremy Reed and John Gibbens – had poems in the celebratory anthology The Captain’s Tower.

Here I am filming a tribute poem to Ginsberg, standing in the Dylan position. Helen Moore is ‘Ginsberging’ about in the background.

Niall McDevitt

Here’s the man himself with Ginsberg ‘Ginsberging about’ in the background:


Here’s a drawing from days of yore:


Anyway, nothing to get excited about, it’s just an

after all…

About Niall McDevitt

Niall McDevitt > poet > author of b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010) and Porterloo (International Times, 2012) > urban explorer > radical pedestrian who leads Shakespeare/Blake/Rimbaud /Yeats walks, among others.
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8 Responses to SAVOY STEPS


  2. gk stritch says:

    far out! marvelous bit of trivia…thank you

  3. gk stritch says:

    Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg/Beatdom

    GK Stritch author CBGB Was My High Schoo

  4. gk stritch says:

    Bill Morgan’s Walking Tour “Allen Ginsberg in the East Village” (slideshow)

  5. Frank Hudson says:

    And I thought I was the first person to notice this location’s two events! Here’s my short post about it and a music/spoken word piece where report this:

    I do wonder if Ginsberg might have known the Blakean location or at least found out about it later.

    • I don’t think they knew at the time, but were probably informed later. They had tried filming closer to the river but police stopped them Therefore they needed somewhere close to Dylan’s hotel and off the beaten track. Savoy Steps was perfect. Pennebaker didn’t film the church, which makes it look different. It was a site of serious rioting and destruction during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381; the Savoy Chapel was burned along with its Palace, home of John of Gaunt.

      I had a drink of Mezcal in the American Bar of the Savoy one time and felt that one of the window tables was pretty much in the space of the first floor Fountain Court flat that had been occupied by Blake in his last six years, and where he died.

      Your song is very joyous and picturesque. Thanks for sharing it.

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